The Matopo Primary School Teacher-to-Teacher project is documented here. It is kindly being supported by ETAS (English Teachers Association Switzerland) and the Roger Federer Foundation.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spring update from Norma Ferguson

The Roger Federer Foundation work is moving along, with several of the schools organizing maintenance of their classrooms through the April holidays. It was interesting to see what each school ordered and what they perceived as priorities - from gardening tools to bicycles and solar panels. Some requests we referred to Cindy for approval, but generally it has been exciting to see how each school is progressing. Unfortunately not all orders have been delivered yet as some items, mainly textbooks, are not available at the moment. Hopefully in the next term the schools should have a bumper delivery. We have taken many pictures, but can only include a few as we have difficulty sending bulky emails from here. I will upload more on our facebook page for those who are interested in viewing more.

Silobi High School is the only high school in our area, but it has been great to watch the Headmaster, Mr Moyo, take hold of the project and move forward – quicker than we have been able to deliver in some cases! He has already sent us his 2nd Term order for processing – his enthusiasm is infectious and he has already done so much to improve the school - a man with a vision.

Isotsha Primary School has probably been the most neglected school because of its inaccessible position way out in the hills, along a really bad road. Teachers tremble when they are told they have been posted there and try to find alternate positions as soon as they can. For a long time there has been no bus or transport service to this isolated community and it is a long 2 hour walk to the nearest shops or transport. When they requested a couple of bicycles on their first order it made complete sense. The excitement was great when we delivered them!

New text books are like Easter eggs to a child! Even little Chiedza was excited to check out some of books while we were allocating them to the different schools. It was interesting to hear high praise for the quality and content of the books from our sister-in-law, who is a teacher in Zambia. She felt that generally, the books available in Zimbabwe are of a better quality than those available to her in a private school in Zambia where she is teaching.

I have spoken in previous newsletters about the GEM (Girls Empowerment Movement) Project. A quick recap: the headmistress of Sigiti Primary School has started this project to help orphan and the ‘vulnerable’ girl children with life-skills so they can better cope with the problems they face. Most are living in extended families with grandparents and some, at the tender ages of twelve and thirteen, have the responsibility of looking after younger siblings in child-headed families with no adults around – a situation which is becoming more common in Zimbabwe which has over 1 million orphans. Child abuse statistics are not available, but we know that it is common, particularly in isolated rural communities where help is largely unavailable. GEM has discovered that male children are also suffering abuse and so has recently launched BEM (Boys Empowerment Movement).

We had the privilege of hosting the first GEM camp in our district, at ‘Morning Star’, over the Easter holiday. Twenty six girls, from 13 schools, along with teachers and facilitators a (total of 39 participants), had fun and laughter mingled with serious ‘business’ over the 4 days. We had miserable weather, light rain a lot of the time, which of course ushers in mud and chilly nights – but the teachings and role-plays kept the children busy. On the few nights that it was dry enough to sit around the camp-fire, the singing was something special. The children were between 10 and 13 years old and, in the encouraging, nurturing and supportive atmosphere they found themselves in, were able to share some of their difficult situations. The teachings were really ‘from the hip’ and the facilitators spoke directly into the children’s lives. The usual cultural inhibitions were put aside and the messages the children received were very honest and straight. When the Provincial Education Officer, Mrs Thabela, visited and gave a talk to the girls, she spoke to them from the heart and told them just how unique and special each one of them was. She shared the story of her climb to her present position and encouraged them to never think they were not able to achieve their dreams. What a very special lady she is.